Don't Be Quick to Dismiss Burchett's FBI Investigation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RECURO or it's leadership team.

On Dec. 1, The Tennessean reported that multiple sources have been questioned by the FBI about Knox County Mayor and congressional candidate Tim Burchett. According to the article, written by well-respected journalists Dave Boucher and Joel Ebert, the questioning has centered around possible tax evasion, potential bribery, and county contracts.

Tim Burchett’s response was not surprising. Rather than address any specific concerns or issues, he launched into attack mode against the sources, namely his ex-wife Allison. After all, this same tactic worked for him in 2012 when it came to light that he had used campaign funds to pay his mortgage and other personal bills. Despite clear evidence that Burchett himself personally transferred some of the funds into his checking account, the public seemed to buy into his argument and Allison took the blame.

This time around, Burchett has used his favorite media tool, Cari Wade Gervin of the Nashville Scene. Gervin, an ultra-liberal feminist, who has bounced around jobs at alt-weeklies and public radio stations, wrote a 3,000-word piece that some Burchett supporters claimed “exonerated” the Mayor. However, Gervin’s article simply parrots the arguments Burchett made a week earlier on local talk radio in Knoxville, doesn’t disprove anything reported on by the Tennessean, and uses extremely faulty logic.

Gervin begins by questioning why the sources went to reporters in Nashville rather than in Knoxville. She is, perhaps wrongly assuming, the sources are the ones who brought the story to the reporters’ attention. Because Gervin has relied so heavily on people like Burchett and his team to perform her work for her, she is undercutting what good journalists do. Is it not possible that Boucher and Ebert are the ones who approached the sources and not vice versa?

After a character assassination of Allison Burchett, Gervin then questions whether Allison worked as a confidential informant under the code name “Carbon”, as reported by the Tennessean. Gervin uses unnamed sources herself to say that “CI’s” do not always know their code names. This may be true in some cases, but according to multiple retired federal agents, it is more common for a “CI” to know their code name than not. Because the identities of Confidential Human Sources are so sensitive, the “CI” will often use their code name and not their real name to identify themselves in recordings and other documents.

Gervin asks why the FBI would continue to use Allison as an informant when she hasn’t been on speaking terms with her ex-husband in years. Isn’t it possible that Allison could still speak to other people on the matters they’re investigating? Wouldn’t Allison still have access to documents and information from her time as Burchett’s wife? There are literally thousands of reasons why she would remain useful to federal authorities.

In one of the most laughable parts of the Nashville Scene story, Gervin, who attacked the Tennessean reporters for using anonymous sources, then uses her own anonymous sources to say that Allison Burchett was not a confidential informant. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Gervin questions why it would take five years to build a tax evasion case. If the other sources are to be believed, there are also larger issues involved, including possible bribery and concerns with Knox County contracts. In complex cases, investigators will often delay lesser charges as they build their case on the bigger ones.

The writer says Burchett never received a target letter. Any attorney who has worked with the feds will tell you that target letters are not always required and many prosecutors choose not to send them at all. This is especially true during sensitive investigations that require confidential human sources and undercover work.

Midway through the Nashville Scene article, readers learn that Gervin was actually presented with documents, including bank statements, relating to Burchett’s campaign finance woes. She admitted to not following up with the information. This is likely because she was protecting Tim Burchett even back then. However, we can give her the benefit of the doubt and say it’s because Allison didn’t provide her with all the documents she wanted. After all, when everything else fails, blame Allison.

Gervin’s piece then turns to speculating on the identities of the other sources in Boucher and Ebert’s Tennessean story. She names Mike Strickland, CEO of Bandit Lites, with no reason given other than because he is currently dating Allison Burchett. She names Lynn Duncan, wife of U.S. Rep Jimmy Duncan, because “all the Duncans hate Burchett.” Finally, she names businessman Brad Mayes because he has “animosity toward Knox County government.”

Gervin does not provide a single piece of evidence as to why she thinks these individuals are the sources unless her own anonymous sources claiming three of them had lunch together counts. While readers may take her “outing” them to be nothing but wild accusations, it is likely the names were presented to her by her friends in Burchett’s office, who seem to do much of her work for her nowadays.

Even if she is correct with her guesses as to who the sources are, why would that even matter? The Tennessean article didn’t go into a series of accusations or attacks these sources are making. The sources simply confirmed that they have been questioned by the FBI regarding Mayor Tim Burchett.

Gervin further criticizes the Tennessean article for reporting that some sources say they expect the Burchett investigation to proceed at the conclusion of the Pilot trial in Chattanooga. Gervin calls that notion ridiculous and says FBI agents would be able to investigate two matters at the same time. While that is true, it’s very likely that if the case has moved from the investigation to prosecution stage, the U.S. Attorney’s office would wait to move forward until they could put their best resources behind the case.

Gervin again relies on her anonymous sources to say there is no investigation, although she doesn’t disclose whether these sources have longstanding feuds with Allison Burchett or anyone else mentioned in her story.

Before concluding, she goes into a lengthy diatribe about anti-Burchett twitter accounts. Much like with the sources in the Tennessean story, she presents her guess as to who is behind the accounts but presents zero evidence as to why. She also discredited a woman who recently claimed she was a victim of sexual assault from Burchett during his time in the State Senate.

She does admit to being friends with members of Burchett’s staff but downplays the relationships. However, she has openly engaged and interacted with Burchett and multiple staffers on social media for quite some time. Earlier this year, she even publicly told Burchett’s Chief of Staff Dean Rice that she would like to celebrate Ramadan in his home. In addition to that, Burchett has responded to tweets by Gervin within the past few months, his current and second wife Kelly Burchett has liked numerous tweets from Gervin in regards to her article, and Mike Donila of Burchett’s staff even retweeted the piece Gervin released. It would seem as if Burchett and Gervin are actually closer than she admits.

Discussion between Cari Gervin and Dean Rice on Facebook early this year.

Discussion between Cari Gervin and Dean Rice on Facebook early this year.

Kelly liking Gervin's tweets

Kelly liking Gervin's tweets

Donila retweeting the article in question.

Donila retweeting the article in question.

Burchett quoting Gervin on Twitter

Burchett quoting Gervin on Twitter

Cari Wade Gervin’s piece in the Nashville Scene does absolutely nothing to exonerate Tim Burchett. In fact, her staunch defense of him only raises red flags on the County Mayor’s congressional campaign. Why would someone who has been described as “alt-left” so staunchly defend a candidate running as a conservative? Why would Burchett’s team be feeding stories to a reporter who has openly mocked Christianity, has publicly given the middle finger to a young conservative, and said “banning old straight white men would solve a whole lot of problems?”

It could be that Tim Burchett is simply not who he says is. If the Tennessean sources are correct, his act may be over soon.

ArticleT. M.